Strategy/RPG fans probably put Disgaea atop their “most loved” list. Well, it’s either the entire Disgaea franchise, Final Fantasy Tactics , or maybe Tactics Ogre . There’s a good reason why Nippon Ichi’s long-running franchise is still around, and why we’ll see Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance later this year for PlayStation 4. The game launched on March 26 in Japan and die-hard fans have already seen some gameplay footage. Of course, the question every follower has is the same: “What’s new and what’s different?” And they ask that question with the implicit understanding that Disgaea will always be Disgaea .
Anyway, let’s start with the story, which is never a focal point but always highly amusing. This time, the terrible Overlord named Void Dark is out to enslave all inhabitants of the Netherworlds. But one brave demon named Killia has opted to stand up to such tyranny, and he’ll lead a band of vibrant and determined rebels against Void Dark’s considerable forces. So, familiar faces may or may not be present but either way, you can expect a suitably dark and hilarious plot with plenty of over-the-top cornball acting. That’s what the fans want, though, so this is hardly a drawback. The zany characters and writing are a bit part of what makes this franchise so appealing, so it’d be a mistake to change the style and ambiance.
Anyway, as for gameplay improvements and additions, let’s start with the new system called Alliance Attack. These are special moves that are only available to main characters when their relationships with other allies are appropriately aligned. In other words, how the main characters relate to others in combat has a big impact on any encounter. Then there’s the Revenge system that kicks in once your allies begin to fall on the battlefield. Thanks to the Revenge Gauge, you can boost your character’s strengths and overall stats, which should serve to even the playing field. Ideally, it’s a pick-me-up when some of your characters bite the dust; it gives you a chance to enjoy some good old-fashioned retribution.
Returning features include the ability to team up with characters on the battlefield; this results in special dual attacks that deal more damage to the opponent. While the Alliance Attack is new, these Fusion Attacks are not; fans will quickly take to the latter, as the Fusion mechanic likely hasn’t changed much. But the developers did throw in a couple of new character classes: The Dark Nights unsurprisingly utilize powerful melee weapons and the Maids choose to fight from afar with various guns. These two new classes will be added to the previously included classes; Nippon Ichi hasn’t removed any. Lastly, you can take advantage of a Weapon Mastery system not dissimilar to the first two Disgaea entries (in 3 and 4, it was called Weapon Forte).
So yeah, we get over 40 races and jobs, the chance to identify new party members that have exactly the skills you want, and a stupid number of enemies on the field at once. When you start bringing in the Fusion and Alliance Attacks, given the sheer number of combatants on the field at any one time, you could be looking at some serious damage. And don’t forget that Disgaea 4: Alliance of Vengeance will be the first entry made for PlayStation 4, so we can expect a substantial visual upgrade as well. It’s not about the graphics, of course, but it’s always nice to have an attractive, updated presentation. From the media we’ve seen thus far, the new effort looks more colorful and refined.
It isn’t for everyone. But for those who really love it, it’s like catnip. Or some more dangerous drug.